Fort William, Scotland
We drove up to Inverness, through the green countryside full of sheep and little bits of snow appearing on the mountains. The mountains aren't that big so the snow really isn't that far from us. There is snow expected in the next few days, but hopefully it will be after we leave so we don't have to drive through it.
Our main reason for going to Inverness was that Danny worked and lived here for a few months about 12 years ago. Danny took me on a tour of the town. He showed me a hostel he stayed at, a restaurant he worked in and the pub he used to drink in (which doesn't exist any more). That was the end of the tour. We also saw a castle over the very high and fast-flowing river – looked like it wouldn't take much rain before the river flooded. It is now dark by 4pm so there wasn't much to see after this time. Danny spent some time telling me stories about his time in Inverness, which is all new to me, but most of them were pretty funny. He then took me out to dinner in the Italian restaurant he worked at, which apparently hasn't changed much. Half the menu is still the same. After some of the stories Danny had told me I was a little wary of eating there, but it turned out to be really good.
We walked back into Inverness and up to the castle, which is now a courthouse. It wasn't very big and gave some average views over the town, so we didn't spend long up there. We quickly did some shopping, Danny buying some Scotch eggs (I don't understand why they have to be eaten cold), pork pies (ditto) and Scotch sausage.
We left Inverness and drove along Loch Ness for much of the day. It was a horrible day, raining most of the time and a little foggy, so the views of the lake weren't great. Danny was pretty keen on spotting Nessie but no such luck. He did analyse his photos later just in case he missed something, but nothing appeared. We stopped at the Loch Ness visitor's centre and skipped by the tacky exhibition and headed straight for the shop. I have to say that their range is pretty pathetic compared to what was in Inverness. A lot of their stock had run out and they hadn't bothered to replace it over the low season. There was also a whisky shop, so Danny was happy. We also quickly stopped at Urquhart castle, which is just ruins so we didn't pay to enter, but took some photos by the road.
The drive down to Fort William was amazing – much better than the drive coming up. Half the time it was through beautiful forest and the other half by the water with mountains on one side. There has obviously been a lot of rain/snow lately because the rivers we crossed were flowing extremely fast, and every kilometre or so there was a stream of water coming down the side of the mountain. It seemed like there were more waterfalls than in Switzerland. We even saw some Highland cows, which I have to admit are the cutest animals I have ever seen.
When we arrived in Fort William we knew we must have passed Ben Nevis, but it was so foggy that we couldn't see anything that high up. It was already dark so we couldn't do much except sit in a pub and chat to some locals. The accent is becoming a lot thicker now so that I can't understand some people. For dinner Danny cooked a vegie and Scotch sausage stew, which was fantastic. The forecast was tonight was -4ºC, chance of snow, and we could definitely feel it – we had the heater running all night until the moment we jumped into bed.
This morning I did a very quick tour around Fort William but there wasn't much to see. Even the lake wasn't a highlight. On cold, wet, windy days everything just looks grey. So instead of hanging around town we decided to drive towards Ben Nevis. We still don't know which mountain was Ben Nevis was, and most higher mountains were covered with fog, but we got to see some amazing scenery. We drove for ages down a narrow road which stopped at a walk through a gorge. We didn't bother with that but along the way we saw so many waterfalls coming down the sides of the hills, plus a lot of snow on the higher ones. It was a pity it was raining as we could have seen so much more, rather than being restricted to within a few metres of the car so we didn't get soaked.
We next drove to Glasgow, along fast-flowing rivers and flooded lakes, and actual mountains (not just hills) rising up sharply on either side of the road. All the mountains had snow on them, and at one stage the snow came right down to road level. It's not even winter yet. Then the unexpected happen. It was a really windy day and we were driving along narrow roads, passing a lot of traffic coming the other way. As has happened a few times when trucks go by, our skylight popped open. Danny just closed it again, so that was fine. Until we met the next truck, which blew the entire skylight unit right off the car. I quickly pulled over and Danny had to run down the road and search for our new skylight (only 2 days old) in a ditch. We discovered that it had snapped at the joins, so there was no repairing it. To be fair it was the old joins that had snapped – we only bought a new clear piece to put on top. It was raining and we needed a quick solution, so we placed the skylight back over the hole and held it in place on the inside of the van with our clothes lines. It actually worked really well – Danny just had to jump up and hold it down whenever we passed another truck.